Game 144: Brian Cashman speaks…

…and, man, does he have a lot to say.

In a fantastic and compelling interview with CBS Newsradio 880’s Phil Allard, Cashman fields questions on, well, everything. He talks about the young pitcher prospects; Joba Chamberlain‘s future; the high-risk, high-reward nature of the Brackman draft pick; what the future holds for Humberto Sanchez, Ross Ohlendorf and the disappointing Kei Igawa; some injury updates; and of course, Alex Rodriguez.

The kicker is A-Rod. Cashman reiterates his stance: The Yanks will negotiate with A-Rod as long as the slugger does not opt out. Once he opts out of the contract, Alex Rodriguez will not be back as a member of the New York Yankees. For the Yanks, this makes perfect financial success. They want to keep the money flowing to A-Rod from Texas, and to do so, A-Rod will have to agree to an extension beyond the terms of his original deal.

If A-Rod opts out, a new deal would force the Yanks to pay A-Rod his entire salary. For the next three years under the current deal, Texas foots the bill for a substantial portion. But this unique financial arrangement means the Yanks can afford to pay A-Rod into the future. I think – and I hope – he stays.

Read the interview; it’s a great insight into the mind of the Yanks’ GM.

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Meanwhile, in Toronto, as the AL Player of the Week looks to homer in his sixth straight game and Phil Hughes goes for his second straight strong start, Derek Jeter makes his triumphant return to the lineup. While the grumblings are that he’ll need to go in for minor off-season knee surgery, I won’t complain about the Captain’s return to the lineup.

On a related note, how great is it having a bench? While Wilson Betemit had struggled with irregular playing time in August, filling in for the Jeter the last few days, Betemit has gone 5 for his last 13 with a 1 HR and 5 RBI. Miguel Cairo never did that.

Meanwhile, today’s game is brought to you by the number 15. When the Tigers lost game 1 of their day-night doubleheader to the Rangers this afternoon, the Yanks saw their magic number to clinch the Wild Card drop to 15.

Good times.

Johnny Damon LF
Derek Jeter SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Jason Giambi 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF

Phil Hughes P

Game 142: Home run 50?

Could A-Rod hit home run number 50 tonight? Could the Yanks beat under-the-radar rookie Brian Bannister tonight? Can Andy Pettitte pitch deep enough into the game with a big enough lead for the Yanks to ignore the fact that they have no set-up guy tonight with Joba and Farns needing rest and Vizcaino on the shelf?

Stay tuned for answers to these and other thrilling questions.

Lineup in number form:
18 DH
2 SS
53 RF
13 3B
55 LF
20 C
24 2B
14 1B
28 CF

46 P

Game 141: Killing Meche

It’s been a busy couple of hours, so a few posts may have been buried. Make sure you check out the story of Troy Glaus receiving steroid shipmens and of outrageous prices for parking at the new Stadium. If you want some positive thoughts before the game, check out some words of encouragement for Andrew Brackman and the continued attendance growth at the Stadium. With 2008 being its last year, you can be sure it will only go up.

That said, here is tonight’s lineup:

1. Johnny Damon, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Bobby Abreu, RF
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Jason Giambi, 1B
8. Robinson Cano, 2B
9. Melky Cabrera, CF

Pete Abraham notes that Royals starter Gil Meche has an ERA over 8.00 in two starts against the Yankees this year.

Ron Villone, sadly, has been activated from the DL. I understand that Joba is young and inexperienced, and thus the Yankees want to keep him under close watch. But I just don’t get why Ron Villone is allowed to come into games with runners on base and Joba isn’t. It goes against logic, really. That rule will hopefully be lifted later in the season, when the playoff field starts to unfold more and we know exactly what we’re playing for (and against whom we’re playing it).

Recently DFA’d Kevin Thompson has been traded to the A’s for cash considerations. He could get some playing time there this month, as the A’s are riddled with injuries.

Should the AL Wild Card end in a tie between the Yankees and either the Tigers or Mariners, the Yanks would host the tie-breaking game. There were a bunch of other coin-flips held today. This was clearly the only one of interest.

Melky is hitting .256/.301/.295 since August 15. His approach has looked terrible lately, kinda like it did back in April. He’s swinging at the first pitch far too often, and is hitting weak choppers and infield pops at a rate you’d expect from a September call-up.

Here’s the pre-game question: If Melky continues to slide, do you play Minky at first, Giambi at DH, Damon in center, and Matsui in left later this month and, God willing, in the playoffs?

Game 140: Phil of the Future faces Seattle

How can there be just 23 games left? Didn’t the season just start last week? I remember opening day so vividly. Sitting in the bleachers on a cool, cloudy April day, we gave Carl Pavano a big hand, and Alex Rodriguez blasted the first of his 46 home runs late in the game.

Things fell apart for a while, but here we are at game 140. The Yanks are 77-62 with the fourth best record in the American League. They are clinging to a two-game lead in the Wild Card with a chance to open up some distance tonight.

Phil Hughes, who has spent the last few days working with Dave Eiland, is due for a big start. Since coming off the DL, Hughes is 1-2 with a 6.40 ERA in 32.1 innings. I’m impressed with his 8.1 K/9 IP in that span but dismayed by his 4.2 BB/9 IP. I haven’t been too happy with the way Jorge Posada has called his games either.

So tonight is a big one for Hughes. The Yanks don’t know when – or even if – Roger Clemens will return to the rotation, and the team needs a starter other than Andy Pettitte or Chien-Ming Wang to turn in some consistent outings.

The Mariners, losers of 10 of their last 11, counter with Jarrod Washburn. The lefty has thrown well against the Yanks in his career. It could be a battle tonight, but we’ve got our number one bullet – Joba Chamberlain – itchin’ to pitch. Somehow, Joe Torre has avoided getting him into a game since Wednesday which is just swell.

Lineups:

Johnny Damon LF
Melky Cabrera CF
Derek Jeter SS
Alex Rodriguez 3B – He went for an MRI on his ankle this afternoon.
Jorge Posada DH – MVP! MVP!
Shelley Duncan RF – If he hits, Giambi sits.
Robinson Cano 2B
Wilson Betemit 1B
Hava Molina C – On Saturday, the Yankee Stadium scoreboard announcer played the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” when Molina came up. I’m sure Jose had no idea what was going on. Hence the new nickname.

Phil Hughes P

Game 139: Wangster’s on it

We pick up the action in the top of the 5th…Wang’s on his game and Georgie’s already juiced one for a 1-0 lead.

Michael Kay’s currently blabbing about how Wang’s ERA is so ridiculously low when he pitches from the windup compared to when he’s pitching from the stretch. Read this to unstupify yourself.

Comment ahoy!

Game 138: It’s like the 2003 ALCS all over again

Roger Clemens is starting with Mike Mussina ready in the bullpen. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, to address a point that Rich raised in the comments to this post, at some point, Joe Torre simply has to go with someone else from the bullpen. Sure, these guys won’t be consistent, but they will get outs. Edwar Ramirez had one great inning yesterday, and he could have done that in the 7th with Joba in the 8th.

No one has a sure-fire bullpen anymore, but other managers trust their relievers enough to go to them in close games. If Torre is willing to use only two people when the Yanks are fighting for a game, the rest of Septembe — not to mention the playoffs — could be problematic too. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than watching Andy Pettitte, who has a history of elbow problems, throw 119 pitches in back-to-back starts.

The lineup that will face King Felix today:

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Posada C
Giambi 1B
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF